This post was brought to you by the letter W, T and F… You may have come through the foggy first few months of parenthood with a baby who largely eats, sleeps and poos and doesn’t ask too much more from you- but suddenly they need entertainment and stimulation and their first educational experiences!! WTF do you do now?? You’re not a teacher- you’ve never had to play with kids before… how are you supposed to know what to do!? So I call this WTF Parenting… WTF can I do to give my Bub a good, fun, developmentally valid day?
You don’t have to be a teacher or an early childhood learning specialist to have some seriously rewarding and fun days with your babies and I hope this post might help someone who’s seeking inspiration for fun and stimulating things to do at home for baby. In fact “staying at home” all day with the baby is something many Mums freak out about, and so there are many unnecessary trips to shopping centres and cafes where baby is usually left strapped in, sitting in a pram and not able to engage with the textures, sounds, tastes, colours and movements around them. We are the Pram Cram generation of Mums, stuff the kid in the designer pram, make them come with you on endless pointless errands and roll your eyes over your take-away skinny cappuccino when the child wants to get out of the pram…
This is just a list of things I do to entertain and play with my boy. I do have education qualifications, but I am essentially just a big kid- and I am sure other Mums could also contribute heaps of lovely ideas to this list, and I’d really like to hear WTF you do with your kids!! There are hundred more and many an amazing resource on the Internet- but I hope you might find someone here worth trying at home.
If you have a great voice or a terrible voice- your baby doesn’t know or care. Singing combined with movements to the beat will be endlessly amusing for babies of any age- especially songs with animal sounds and movement such as Old MacDonald, Never Smile At A Crocodile, Incy Wincy Spider, Twinkle Twinkle etc. I found great comfort in singing “Eh Shut Uppa Your Face” largely because Torsten giggled with every “Eh!”. Each to their own.
Interactive and Tactile books are the best for little fingers who love to explore. I don’t have the kind of kid who’ll sit quietly in my lap as I turn pages and read in my best Play School voice, but he likes to touch the pages and copy sounds- and it’s the exposure to the book, not the science of learning to read that is important at this stage. Just the other day, my husband put Tors on the floor with a book and within minutes he had picked it up and was holding it open the right way up saying “wha blah blah wha”. Monkey see, monkey do.
3. The grass is a wonderland
Kids seem to blossom in the outdoors- a crying grumpy restless baby when taken outside will often calm in seconds. The shadow of the trees, movement of leaves in the wind, birds chirping, cars passing, new smells and textures all around. Lay some toys on a blanket and let Bub roll around experiencing the grass and the change of environment. Studies have shown that the sun is the best optometrist for little eyes- that 15 minutes of sunlight a day can treat near sightedness AND some studies of ADHD children found that they were able to concentrate, participate and had greater recall of class content when classes were held outdoors. Thank you, Google Scholar.
4. If it’s not a toy- it’s a toy.
Cardboard rolls, whisks, colanders and all Tupperware, anything that crinkles, or has a funny texture, sticks, wooden spoons, empty drink bottle with a few raw spiral pasta pieces inside, an empty drink bottle with water and glitter or some five cent pieces inside (parental guidance during use of these things… Duh) baby toothbrush, hairbrushes, empty tissue box with a toy stuffed inside, egg cartons, fabric scraps or scarves- especially floaty ones, tennis balls (fuzzy, it rolls AND its a ball!! Shut the front door!!) and if you want to get crazy, put a tennis ball INSIDE a container. Mind. Blown.
5. Bath and water play
If your child loves bath time, then why limit the water fun to getting clean?! Especially in hot weather, measuring cups, rubber duckies, champagne corks (you may even have to drink the champagne first, a worthy sacrifice…) water balloons, endless fun!!
Sometimes, if Mr Grumpy comes out- I give him a bath and it calms him down- he has fun and often a really good sleep afterwards- like I’ve tricked him into thinking its nighttime!!
6. Talking, narration and conversation
Have you ever been getting about your business with your Bub and realise there’s an awkward silence?? It takes a while to get used to “stream of consciousness” chatter, but your baby loves your voice- they have heard it from inside from around 20 weeks gestation!! Narrate what you are doing and show your baby the objects you’re using as you go. Except for knives… Probably avoid knives.
Put your baby in a highchair next to you when doing mundane tasks like cooking and laundry make a shitty task, fun.
7. Activity Basket
Go around your home looking for things which might ordinarily be out of bounds or not toys- a whisk, a sieve, a brush, a scarf, a magnet, some plastic containers etc- let Bub empty the basket and play with the contents. Show him how things are used, and watch as he explores things which might never have been seen before. Parental guidance recommended!!
8. Do nothing
This is my favourite- not because it’s “nothing” but because it’s everything. Sometimes he lays on my chest when he’s tired and I play with his hands and fingers, stroke his hair and face and hum a tune. Other times, I watch him play and try to intervene as little as possible- just watching him learning and exploring by himself.
9. The TV is not the devil. Get over it.
I’m the first to admit that children glued to screens, iPhones and iPads seems a huge waste of the sponge like mind of a child. I hate seeing kids out to dinner with Mum and Dad, on the iPad whilst their parents are talking- the art of conversation dying quietly in the background. That said- if I need 15 minutes to make a call, cook dinner, fold laundry, or just a break from being a full time Mumtertainer, then I have no problem with Play School, Little Einsteins, Peppa Pig- I have recorded the house across the road being demolished because Tors loves that!!
10. Go for a walk
What’s good for Mum is good for Bub. It’s amazing how much kids love the outdoors- so get the pram and go for a walk- point things out, like “the blue cat” and “the barking dog”, talk about the weather “it’s windy” or “it’s hot today”- have the chair facing away from you if your pram allows, so baby has a chance to be independent.
11. Fire blanket
eBay $0.99 and endless fun. Not too much explanation required here- it’s shiny, it’s crinkly, it floats and it’s different from every angle. Good for a rainy day, or “I’m at the end of my rope thinking of ways to entertain you”, fun…
12. Empty drink bottle and other sensory play ideas.
The other day I put an ice block in a zip lock bag- it could have been a $100 toy and it could not have been as amazing to my little man. “The finger” came out and he was pushing the ice block around inside the bag and as it melted, it became more interesting. Good clean fun- and no mess for you!!
13. Finger food
When all else fails- explore textures, smells and new tastes with food. Even if it ends up on the floor, exploring food is always a good idea and self-feeding is great for Bub’s self confidence.
14. The flash light. You’re all singing Jessie J now… Aintcha?
Lay on the floor in a dim room and play with a flashlight!! You’ll have fun- baby’s mind will be officially blown and you may even make him/her sleepy! Win!!
15. Bubbles. Who doesn’t love bubbles!! Fuckinyeah!!
I’d love for you to add your own suggestions… I’m running out of material hehehe!!!